By Geoffrey Himes
Friday, November 16, 2012
The music made by Portland, Ore., duo the Helio Sequence is often described as dreamy, and that’s partially right. The long, drawn-out synthesizer chords played by Benjamin Weikel and the long, drawn-out tenor notes crooned by Brandon Summers inevitably evoke that no-man’s land between dreaming and waking. This is truer than ever on the band’s fifth album, “Negotiations,” which continues the trend of deemphasizing Summers’s psychedelic guitar and highlighting his soothing vocals. This is a good thing, for the singer is writing simple, captivating melodies that ferry feelings from dreamland to consciousness.
His lyrics are little more than the barely coherent mumbling of someone newly awake, but they still convey the underlying emotion. It might be a desire to be reunited with a lover, as on the especially attractive “One More Time,” or the heartache of watching a friend in a “Downward Spiral.”
Less impressive are such throwbacks to the psychedelic surrealism of the duo’s earlier work as “Hall of Mirrors” and “Harvester of Souls.” The band is most effective when it applies its surprisingly stripped-down, melodic synth-pop to issues of heartbreak, whether bidding a lover farewell on “October” and “December” or offering one more chance on the title track, which concludes: “Just one more time say those words: ‘Wake me oh so softly.’ ”